Thursday, December 24, 2009

Quick Takes for Christmas

I'm short on time (always), but I wanted to update on little Nolan and also put a few other thoughts in my head in written form. Today, we get 7 quick takes.

1. Nolan went back to the doctor on Monday for a weight check. They were hoping he would have gained 2 ounces (1/2 ounce a day for 4 days), and he gained 9. So, that's thrilling. Of course, that was with breastfeeding, formula, pumping, and almost no sleep for Mama. So, we've backed off just a little hoping to find that perfect balance of weight gain and sanity in our household. Right now I'm breastfeeding about every hour and a half then offering a bottle. I've been pumping enough (SO MUCH PUMPING) that I'm able to offer breastmilk as a supplement most times, so he's only had formula twice in the last 3 days (both times he spat most of it back out, so I don't know if he was full or just thought it was yucky--because it IS yucky). He is taking less and less from the bottle and seeming satisfied after breastfeedings, so I think that my milk supply is increasing and he's getting stronger. THANK YOU for your prayers, kind words, and even meals. I'm serious that I couldn't have gotten through this last week without all your support.

2. I talked to a lactation consultant this week. She told me that a big part of breastfeeding is mental--if you think you can do it, you can do it. If you decide you can't, you can't. Now, I don't know what the ratio is of mind power:science when it comes to the actual mechanics of breastfeeding, but I definitely see where she's going with this. She said that there's no science to prove that mother's milk tea actually improves milk production, BUT if a mother is willing to give Daddy the crying baby and make herself a cup of tea and take the time to drink it before breastfeeding, she's already in a better state of mind and will produce more milk as a result. I think this can apply to most areas of parenting. If you walk away for a few minutes (take a walk, call a friend, go to your room and listen to Sarah McLachlan's Christmas album--which is fabulous, by the way) you come back in a better state to do whatever task is on your plate. So, it's not always easy to put into action (it almost never is, in fact), but it's really remarkable how much difference a shower in a locked bathroom can make in a tired mom's life.

3. This week a very dear old lady in my church passed away. She was the oldest church member, so this was hardly a surprise, but it still stings when someone you love passes. I only had one grandparent in my life, and she lived far away. Not that I didn't love her, of course, but she wasn't an active part of my daily life. So, when I came to my church, part of what I was looking for was that extended family that I didn't have. Boy, did I find it. There were plenty of grandmas and grandpas who surrounded me and cheered me through graduations, weddings, babies, and life's everyday ups and downs. I clung to 4 of them most dearly. She was the last of the 4 to pass. When I got the news I felt very personally sad. My boys will never again sit in her bony lap. She will never again hold my hand in her very frail one and whisper in her old lady whisper (which was really quite loud), "I sure do love you." But the news also made me extremely happy. She's finally Home for the holidays. I know that she's glowing as she greets her lost loved ones and celebrates her first Christmas Home.

4. Christmas is tomorrow. Once again it snuck up on me. I was going to be ready this year. And then I had a baby. And then the baby needed me more than I anticipated. And then it was Christmas. And the gingerbread house sits on my kitchen counter unassembled. And the presents sit in my garage unwrapped. And my Christmas lights sit in a bin unhung. And Christmas still came. And somehow all that stuff seems totally unimportant in the grand scheme of things. And I'm not even sorry that I didn't get around to all that stuff.

5. I'm struggling with Santa. The Jolly Old Elf has my gut in knots. I grew up with Santa visiting my house every year, and it just seemed natural that the same would be true for my kids. But the boys have been asking questions--too many questions--and I don't know how to lie to them. And I once heard a lady in my church talk about when her son started asking questions. She told him the truth. So, he asked next about the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny. She, again, told him the truth. Then he asked about Jesus. You know, it makes perfect sense that those things would get all tangled up in a child's mind. They can't be seen, and yet grown ups insist that they're out there somewhere. Believe in the unseen. That's faith, right? So, how do we nurture their faith in Christ when they take a blow to their faith in all the imaginary childhood icons? How credible will I be when I tell them that those guys weren't real, but BELIEVE ME THIS TIME Jesus is? So, I think Santa is coming this year just because I don't have time to really sort it all out in my head before the boys go to bed tonight, but I need to do some serious thinking on this before next year. If you have advice or thoughts on the topic, I'm all ears.

6. I really didn't have 7 things to write about today.

7. Have a very Merry Christmas and a blessed 2010.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

If I Had Only Known...

I didn't know.

I didn't know that when I chose to feed the boys lunch AFTER Nolan's doctor's appointment on Thursday they wouldn't get to eat until Mike came to pick them up at 3:00.

I didn't know that when I left the house for the routine checkup at 12:00 that I wouldn't return home again until well after 6:00.

I didn't know that when my baby sucked his pacifier so vigorously he was actually searching for food.

I didn't know that when he cried he was trying to tell me that he was literally starving.

I didn't know that every time I put him to the breast he would suck until he exhausted himself and fell asleep but only received a small amount of food.

I didn't know that his tiny body was the result of hunger, not genetics.

I didn't know.

If I had only known. I would have done things so differently. I would have started pumping earlier to increase my milk supply for him. I would have insisted on frequent weight checks to make sure he was gaining appropriately. I would have forbidden pacifiers and put him to the breast every time he wanted to suck, even if it was just 15 minutes after our last feeding. If I had only known. But I didn't know. And this happened.

And now. Now my baby is scheduled to have a second blood test next week. Now he is drinking cold formula from an artificial nipple. Now I'm pumping every hour and a half and nursing too and my breasts are sore and my older children are feeling neglected. And I'm still not making enough milk. His weak suck and my ignorance allowed my milk supply to decrease to nearly nothing, and I'm not sure I'll be able to build it back up. I'm feeling betrayed by the very body I was so in awe of only weeks ago. I'm feeling cheated because I won't be able to breastfeed my very last baby the way I had planned. I'm feeling exhausted because my routine right now consists of nursing the baby, giving him a bottle, then pumping, then about 30 minutes of down time before the process starts over (day and night). I'm feeling ashamed because I let this happen--what kind of mother lets this happen? When I checked in at the hospital for his tests, I was horrified to see that I knew the admitting nurse. I handed her the orders for the tests with the words "failure to thrive" written across the top, and wanted the floor to swallow me up to avoid sitting in the room with her thoughts of how I was neglecting my baby. Failure to thrive is something that drug addicts' babies have. Good mothers have fat babies and laugh about their pudgy thighs. My baby's diaper leaks every time he pees because his legs are too skinny to get a good fit. How could I have not known? I'm terrified that his "failure to thrive"--my failure to parent--will have long-term affects on his brain and his development.
So, if you are so inclined, please pray for my very little man. And, if you don't mind, for me too.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

More Like Mary

Advent started this week. Having just had a baby, I'm especially deep in thought this year about Mary and her place in the Christmas story.

I've already shared with you my birth story, in which I revealed that things didn't go quite as planned in my labor and delivery. My mom wasn't in the room as we had planned. Plus, it hurt like crazy, and I just couldn't imagine that it was supposed to hurt that much (and maybe it wasn't--the placenta was abrupted, after all, and I have nothing to compare it with having never experienced a natural childbirth before). It would have been super-nice to have had the doctor standing there with me telling me what was going on, why it was hurting, what was going to happen next. But it didn't happen that way. This baby was coming, and there was nothing anyone could do about it. I felt helpless and scared. I went into a bit of a panic, to be honest. And this was in a hospital, with a RN standing over me and my husband by my side.

But, Mary. We don't get to know a lot about Mary's labor and delivery. This is because the gospels were written by men. If we had a Gospel According to Mary, I feel certain we would have details about Jesus' entry into the world. Men, though. Luke writes "...the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son," as though it was as easy and automatic as taking a breath. He says nothing of her pain, her fear, her embarrassment. I mean, we've got to assume that Joseph had a hand in delivering the baby, and let me remind you that the two still did not "know" each other. If you've never attended a birth, I'll be the first to tell you that it's not a modest event. Talk about a get-to-know-you session for the young couple.

I wonder if Mary was a little (or even a lot) upset with God over the situation. Let's face it, God really asked a lot of the girl (and I say girl because, historically speaking, it's very likely that she was merely a teenager when all this happened). First she has to deal with an unplanned, out-of-wedlock pregnancy and public ridicule and the possibility of losing Joseph. Then she has to postpone her wedding plans so that she can remain a virgin for the entirety of the pregnancy. Then she has to travel the 70ish miles from Nazareth to Bethlehem during her last trimester, the part of the pregnancy when most of us complain if we have to waddle down the sidewalk to check the mail. When she gets there she doesn't even get to crash in a nice hotel room with a plush bed and room service. No, she's sent to the stable where she can enjoy the pleasant aroma of animal manure and the softness of itchy straw for her bed. At least she can rest after her journey, right? Wrong. Now comes the really hard part. She labors and delivers the precious baby Jesus in an unfamiliar city, many miles from her family and her home. The Baby was coming, and there was nothing anyone could do about it. I wonder if she cried out to God in fear or anger or both. Then again, she was no ordinary woman.

Oh, but then. The baby was born, and her labor pains stopped. She got to hold that tiny baby and, if she was anything like me at all, it made all the pain and suffering worth it. She looked at the baby in her arms and saw something beautiful: the face of God. Can you imagine? I know that I can hardly hold my baby without crying just because of the miracle which has taken place in my life. It's almost too much to fathom--a human woman holding the savior of mankind, nursing him at her breast, He as helpless and tiny as my little Nolan.

I'd love to meet Mary. I'd love to ask her how she did what she did. I'd love to ask her how she kept her cool (IF she kept her cool) with all that was required of her (not even ending with the birth of Jesus). I'd love to BE like Mary. Because there are times in my life when I realize that things aren't going as I planned, and I get more than a little irritated with God for changing the plans on me at the last minute. I'd love to be able to say, "This baby is coming, and there's nothing anyone can do about it," with a positive attitude, trusting that God has a plan and is taking care of me and my family. The truth is that I DO believe that, it's just hard to remember in the midst of life's labor pains.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

My Many Colored Days

I very firmly believe that postpartum depression is real. After Ei was born, I found myself anxious and angry and sad for no good reason. Prozac is a wonderful thing, by the way. I told my doctor, she wrote a prescription, I took a little blue pill each morning, and in a few months I felt better. It's hard when you're in the middle of it though. You've got this perfect little baby and a wonderful life and then your stupid hormones and sleep deprivation get in the way and make you cry because you're out of toilet paper in every bathroom and you start to think that if you can't even keep toilet paper stocked how are you ever going to remember to feed and bathe two children and what was God thinking entrusting all of this to you. If you've been there, you're nodding your head knowingly right now. If you haven't, just trust me.
It's not like that this time. If there's a such thing as postpartum elation, that's what I've got. I am so sleep-deprived it's ridiculous, but I am getting by on this baby high that feels amazing. All I want to do is hold him and stare at his face. The older boys are all doing fine (to my relief), my recovery was amazingly simple, the baby is healthy and nursing well, and life seems to be falling nicely into place.
And that's all. I don't have anything earth-shattering to write tonight. I just wanted to let you know that my absence in the bloggy world is not due to crippling postpartum depression or even being overwhelmed with my new life. It's just that right now I'm just content to sit and hold this baby and do nothing else. So, I'm going to get back to doing just that. He'll be big far too quickly.

Nolan, 12 days old

Thursday, November 19, 2009


Nolan Maxwell Sharp
Born Monday, November 16, 2009 at 10:30 a.m.
He's well-loved already.

His birth story is still whirling in my mind. It's wild. Let me share...

After much debate and discussion with my husband and my doctor, we decided to induce his labor on Monday morning. We were concerned that he might not have enough amniotic fluid because this had been a problem in all three of my previous pregnancies. I was disappointed because I really wanted to do this completely naturally. My doctor told me 2 weeks prior to the induction date that I was dilated to 3 cm and already 90% effaced, so I really thought I would have him soon. So I was also a little relieved to finally be done with the pregnancy and meet my baby.

We arrived at Parkwest at 5:30 Monday. They got my IV in and we signed paperwork, but nothing much really happened until 7:45. That's when they started pitocin to encourage stronger and more regular contractions (I had been having mild, irregular contractions for about 2 weeks). At 8:00 my doctor arrived and broke my water. She confirmed that I was still 3cm. They turned up the pitocin every 15 or 20 minutes, so it didn't take very long for me to be in hard labor. I was having painful contractions every 2 minutes (lasting about a minute each) by 9:00, and they gradually got stronger and lasted longer after that. I had signed the consent form for the epidural but told the nurse I wanted to wait to get it. The truth was that, although I had suspected I would need an epidural to get through an aggressively induced labor, I was disappointed about not having the natural childbirth I had dreamed of for so many months. So, just kept telling myself that I would wait 10 minutes and then ask for it if I still wanted it. After 10 minutes, I'd tell myself the same thing again. I kept watching the clock and, when the deadline came, setting a new goal time. At 10:00, I was holding strong.

At 10:15 my dad brought my children back from the waiting room where they had been playing. They were loud and busy. They climbed on the bed where I was laboring and made noise and broke my concentration. It was at this moment that I realized I couldn't go on for 4 more hours (I was expecting a 2:00 delivery, which was pretty consistent with the labor time for my second and third children, minus just a little bit due to wishful thinking). I don't know if the pain actually got worse at that point or if I just lost my concentration and ability to deal with it with all the noise, but that's the point when I could no longer look ahead 10 minutes. I told Mike to call the nurse and ask for my epidural. He gladly did. I guess everyone must have realized that I was in a lot of pain at that point because my mom took the boys back out of the room, and my dad left altogether saying that he'd be back around lunch (and not to have the baby before he returned). My nurse came in right away and went immediately about the business of preparing for the epidural. As she was unpacking the kit on my tray, I told her that I needed to use the restroom before the anesthesiologist arrived. She told me to wait because he would be there in 10 minutes and put a catheter in place. I assured her that there was no way I could wait 10 minutes, and she helped me unhook the 50 thousand cords which tethered me to the hospital bed so I could go. Leaning on my IV pole for support, I made it to the restroom, where I was hit with the most unbelievable contraction. I was dizzy with pain, and I felt pretty sure I was going to die in that bathroom. I called to Mike who helped me cross the room back towards the bed. I had another very painful contraction just as we reached the foot of the bed, and I stopped there to wait it out before I tried to climb back in. It was different though. This was no ordinary contraction. This was a prepare-for-your-death kind of pain.

I told Mike and the nurse that it was suddenly extremely painful. They ignored me, minus a few consoling pats on the back. I guess, "THIS REALLY HURTS!" is just something that women in labor exclaim, so no real reason for alarm. After repeating it over and over and OVER the nurse finally asked if I thought maybe the baby was ready to come. I told her I thought maybe he was already coming. Mike wanted to assure me that the baby was, in fact, NOT going to fall out of my body, but first he looked to be sure that he knew what he was talking about. That's when he said, "The head is already out!"

The rest is a bit of a blur, but here's what I know. The nurse insisted that I lay down on the bed, but I absolutely couldn't move due to pain and panic. So, Mike pushed me backwards onto my back. The nurse grabbed the towel she had just put out for the anesthesiologist to use and caught my baby with it (because she didn't even have her gloves on at this point) at 10:30 a.m. after 2 and a half hours of labor and zero pushes. There was a little nursing student observing (it was her first day on the maternity floor). She couldn't have been more than 18 years old. The nurse sent her out to get help, and she gladly bolted. Within seconds, a crew of nurses descended on my room. Meanwhile, the nurse who delivered the baby was cleaning him up at the foot of my bed. I hadn't delivered the placenta yet, and the cord was not yet cut. She wanted to wait for the doctor to do those things. The doctor did arrive quickly (out of breath from running from her office) and delivered the placenta. She discovered that it was abrupted, likely the cause of the "I might die" pain I felt while walking to the restroom.

The anesthesiologist arrived shortly afterwards. We thanked him but told him his services would not be needed.

So, minus the induced contractions, I got my natural childbirth. I would highly recommend it. I felt GREAT afterwards, and the high of what my body is capable of still has me smiling three days later.

Oh, and the best part? He's wonderful. He's tiny and squishy and velvety soft and smells divine.

And that's the story of how 7 pound, 6 ounce Baby Nolan was born and made his mark on the world. Welcome, little guy. I hope you always have as much enthusiasm for life as you showed Monday.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009


Parenting is hard. I've written that before, but this time is different. We're having a really hard time at the Sharp household right now, and I'm struggling. The big boys have started fighting, which I know is normal for siblings, but it's aggressive and ugly and makes me so sad. They refuse to clean up their toys. They talk back. The last couple of days I've been standing there looking at them, scratching my head and thinking, "What has happened to my family?"

Yes, I know we're in the midst of major life changes. The baby should be here any day now (the doctor said on Monday she'd be surprised if I lasted another 10 days), and that alone is bound to cause some ripples in our usually still waters. Aaron is outgrowing the baby stage and becoming both a playmate and a real nuisance to the big boys. We've started homeschooling, so our days are no longer full of free play (although we do still get plenty of that). So, I know that there's a lot going on in their worlds, and I've tried to be understanding. But enough is enough.

I got really strict about time outs. I started using a timer and had very specific rules about what constituted a successful time out. I was consistent, for the most part anyway, and tried to be calm but firm when sentencing. Aggression was a non-negotiable time out, as was talking back and acts of defiance. And they just didn't care. 5 minutes later they came bounding out of their time out spots, offering a half-hearted apology only because it was required. Nothing changed.

The other day I did something I thought I would never do. I spanked my child. Ei bit Jackson on his face, leaving a nasty looking bitemark next to his eye. I asked him why he would do something like that (not that there is any good reason, but I needed to know if Jackson also deserved punishment), and he said that they were playing ball and Jackson got to the ball first which made him mad. I wanted to cry when I realized that my sweet little boy had the potential to be so very mean. So, I spanked him twice, while Jackson watched, and thought that this would surely put an end to this recent streak of ugliness. Afterwards I felt like throwing up. I'm not judging others here--just being honest. I just can't figure out how someone can spank a child and walk away feeling good about her parenting skills. All day I wanted to grab Ei in a big hug and tell him how sorry I was, that returning violence for violence was a terrible thing to do. But I talked to Mike about it, and we decided that it might be good for him to see that parents do have bigger ammunition than just time outs and that he better get his act straight. We agreed not to use this particular method of punishment on a regular basis (in fact, I think I'm done with it), but we thought maybe some good might come of it. It didn't. He has bitten Jackson 3 times since then.

Today I walked into the bonus room of our house and took a good look around. There were toys (so many toys) on every inch of the floor, despite my pleas that they clean up for 4 days in a row. I walked the boys into the room and showed them what I saw and asked if they thought it was acceptable. They said no. They asked if they would still get their allowance this week, but they made no effort to pick up their toys. I wanted to bang my head into the wall. What have I created?

And so, today begins a new experiment in my parenting career. We skipped our regular trip to the library for storytime, and instead I emptied the toy room. I gutted it. While the boys screamed and begged for me to stop, I loaded up all their toys into boxes and took them to the garage. Afterwards we had a discussion about how they are not entitled to a room full of fancy toys, dessert after every dinner, and fun outings every day. I told them very calmly that they've become spoiled brats, and that I'm accepting part of the blame for what's happened because I'm the one who buys all the toys, gives them treats, takes them for outings, and doesn't expect an ounce of respect in return. And I told them that today things change. They will earn their toys back by keeping their room clean, respecting others, following directions, and refraining from acts of unkindness. Time outs will continue. Rewards (treats, fun outings, etc.) will be just that--rewards for good behavior, not a part of our regular routine.

Yes, this is poor timing. The baby will be here before we know it, and all of this will be put on the back burner while we just try to survive those first few weeks. Yes, it's going to be hard on all of us to change our old habits. But it's a good start, and I feel hopeful about things for the first time in weeks. Parenting is such an incredible responsibility. I have such a short amount of time to teach these little people to be responsible, compassionate, KIND adults. There's no room to be wishy-washy, even if it's more fun and seems to make the moment easier. I get it. I know this. Now, doing it is the hard part. Prayers, please.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

32 Days to Go

The belly, 35 weeks
That's some serious belly.

The Mama with her boys

32 days until our Nolan is due
Life is good.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Where, Oh, Where?

Where have I been?

I've been preaching. I was asked to guest preach at a little church in Seymour for two weeks. The first week I was there the electricity was out, and I preached by candlelight in the scorching hot little wooden church. It was very Little House on the Prairie. The second week the lights were back on (along with the air conditioning, thank goodness), and I had fewer jitters, so it went much smoother. I have really mixed feelings about this though. On the one hand, I loved being in the pulpit and sharing a message with the congregants (however few there were!), but on the other hand I just kept wondering what I was missing at my home church and feeling sorry that I had pulled the boys from the Sunday School classes that they love to visit a church with only one other child their age. So, I don't know where I'm headed right now, but I am thankful for the opportunity that came my way.

I've also been getting older. Yes, let's not make a big show of it, but the anniversary of my birth recently passed. I purposefully did not say birthday because I am not having any more of those. 29 was plenty. 30 sounds old. 30 feels old (or so I'm told, but I wouldn't know because I'm staying 29). I think it's made especially difficult because I can't dye my hair right now (on account of the little guy growing inside me), so my grays mock me every morning by multiplying faster than I can pluck them out.

And I've been incubating. Baby Nolan is due in 47 days (not that I'm counting or anything), and I am finally feeling PREGNANT. I have to type that in all caps because it can only be said in a heavy, groaning voice, and I can't recreate that for you here. So, PREGNANT is the best I can do. Overall, it's still been a really easy pregnancy, but now I feel like I have to struggle for breath, and my hips are finally hurting (as if they needed to spread some more, seriously), and his knees are so bony and poking me right in the gut. At my last appointment I asked the doctor to identify the huge bump in my abdomen that was causing me so much pain, and she said, "Well, that's your little guy's knee!" as if I should swoon and put it in his baby book. I guess I didn't look very happy because she offered to help me move him. Do you know how this is done? She had me lay down, then put both hands on my belly and, I'm not kidding here, she practically did a handstand she put so much weight on my middle. Yowza. That was unpleasant. The good news is that it worked--he turned on his side and moved his knees. The bad news is that he was back in the painful knee-forward position by evening. He gets the hiccups all the time, which, again, sounds cuter than it is. This child shakes his entire body when he gets the hiccups. This is only tolerable for about 3 minutes before I grow impatient with the full body jerk inside me every 5 seconds or so. So, if you ask me how I'm feeling, I'll probably answer, "PREGNANT." And that's about as good as can be expected at 33.5 weeks, huh?

Oh, and in my spare time I've been homeschooling and cleaning out closets to make room for fall clothes and washing and hanging baby clothes and visiting doctors (one ear infection, one diagnosis of Vitiligo, 3 dental cleanings, and a trip to the vet--in addition to my bi-weekly OB/GYN appointments) and also completely revamping our entire diet in the hopes that I can prevent little Aaron from getting back in the ear infection cycle this winter.

I'm very tired now.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

31 Weeks

The belly, 31 weeks

Yes, I'm sure I'm only 31 weeks, but thanks for asking. It gets funnier every time I hear it.
My doctor says that he is measuring large and suspects that he'll come early.
I'm thinking he'll just be another huge Sharp boy, and I'm not expecting to go into labor until the turkey hits the table on Thanksgiving (making him 8 days late). I think I'll still want green bean casserole, even if I'm in labor.
So, tell me, when are you thinking he'll come? Lock in your votes now.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Dear Ei,

My Sweet Ei,

Today you turn 4 years old. In some ways it seems like you should still be my tiny baby, but you are so grown up that I often think of you as even older than 4.

When Jackson was still pretty little (about 5 months old) I took a little drive to the store by myself. I didn't get out much without him, and I had thought it would be really relaxing to spend some time alone. I got in the car and turned on the heat. As soon as the air in the car warmed up, I began to feel really sick--I mean, REALLY sick. I don't get carsick except when I'm pregnant so I decided to buy a pregnancy test while I was at the store. When I got home I took the test, meaning for it to be my little secret. No need to tell the world if it's a false alarm, right? I hadn't even had time to wash my hands when I noticed the two pink lines. I read the box to be sure: two lines=pregnant. Since the recommended time had not passed to read the test I told myself not to panic--maybe it would fade in a minute or so. When it didn't, I knew. I was pregnant. I cried. I was still very much new to this whole mothering thing. I wasn't sleeping through the night. I wasn't eating hot meals. I was still unsure of how to manage a baby and a grocery cart at the same time. How could I possibly handle another baby? I think I must have sat on the bathroom floor and cried for at least half an hour before I decided I would soon be missed. I tidied myself up and went about the day, unsure of how to tell your Daddy that he was about to be a daddy again. I told Aunt Becca first. Then, when I had given myself a couple of hours to digest the idea, I told Daddy. I prepared him for news I wasn't sure he was going to like. I'll never forget his response: "How could I be upset about a baby?" Suddenly, this whole second-baby thing seemed so much more manageable. I wasn't doing it alone. Daddy would be right alongside me, as would all of our family and friends. From that moment on, I never even considered crying about being pregnant again. I was scared, sure. And tired, absolutely. But I was so happy. I was also fiercely defensive for you. People joked about my little "oops" baby, and I adamantly explained that you were well-planned, just not by me. No, you weren't in my plans, little man, but God knew that our family needed you. And, boy, was He right.

You dropped into our world and instantly felt like you'd been a part of us forever. I think we might have called you Ethan once or twice before Jackson re-named you Ei. You became "Baby Ei" and would be until we dropped the "baby" and left it just Ei. You had this round bald head and ears that stuck out, and you looked exactly like Charlie Brown from behind. You adored Jackson from the beginning--no one could make you smile the way he could (and the feeling was mutual). You were on the move from the beginning, and I almost can't remember a time when you didn't talk in full sentences because you started talking so early. And your laugh. Oh, Ei, you didn't just laugh. You cackled. And your whole body laughed. You shook all over and turned red in the face and couldn't breathe you laughed so hard. It was impossible to be in the room with you and not laugh along with you. We started saying that your cuteness would keep you out of trouble. 4 years later, I'm sure we were right. You are so rotten, Mr. Ei. You tease and pick and stay on the verge of trouble, but your precious laugh still gets you out of trouble. Everyone who meets you is charmed. Your Sunday School teacher from last year still goes out of her way to talk to you. Your Bible School teacher made a point of telling me how much she adored you. People who barely know you fall in love with your mischievous smile and funny mannerisms. I can't tell you how many times someone has said to me, "I'd take Ei home with me in a heartbeat," or something similar. I always beam with pride. And you and your brother Jackson? It melts my heart to see the two of you becoming such good friends. You tell me often that Jackson is your best friend, and I hope that's true forever. You love each other so well.

You know how sometimes someone surprises you with something wonderful, when it isn't even your birthday or Christmas? Those are the best kinds of presents because they are so unexpected, and because it usually means the giver is so sure you'll love this particular gift that he just can't wait for a big occasion to give it to you. That's you, Ei. I had always planned on having more children. I knew I wanted more babies--someday. I really think that God had an idea for a great little person, and He was so eager to present it to me that it just couldn't wait until I thought to ask for it. You are my perfect little surprise. If I could have planned all my children to be surprises (which seems like an oxymoron, I guess), that's exactly what I would have done. I couldn't have planned anything as marvelous as your birth. I couldn't have designed a better relationship between brothers. I couldn't have imagined a more precious child. I am so lucky to be your mom, and I hope you know that. I hope you know how much I love you. I hope that you know how proud of you I am. I hope you know how wonderfully made you truly are.

Happy birthday, Big Boy Ei. I love you so very, very much.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Eyebrows

What Aaron lacks in vocabulary, he makes up for in facial expressions. This particular look says, "You again? Go. Go now. Leave me alone with my Mama."

Monday, August 24, 2009

School's In!

Today started the 3rd week of homeschooling in the Sharp household. Many of you asked how it was going, so here's the scoop.

For the most part, it's going great. I'm teaching Jackson and Ei together, so that means Jackson is occasionally bored while Ei catches up, and Ei is occasionally lost while Jackson explores a more difficult concept, but for the most part we're all working together. Ei's attention span is really short, and I have to remind myself over and over that he's not even 4 yet. Both of them love science best and are fascinated by outer space. So, we've spent a lot of our free time this week watching video clips on the internet about space. I've actually learned a great deal too! Math is our hardest subject, mostly because there is such a gap between what Ei is doing and what Jackson is doing. I've been spending most of my one-on-one time in math so that Jackson doesn't have to go back to square one but Ei doesn't get lost. Ei does not enjoy seatwork of ANY kind, so he gets frustrated when I give him some work to do while I work individually with Jackson. The best part is when they recap the entire day for Daddy over supper. I'm constantly amazed at how much they retain. Even after a few really hairy scheduling days in which we fell behind on our plans for the day, we managed to get caught up and are currently right on target. So, overall, I'm really pleased, and the boys seem to be enjoying themselves (mostly) too.

We are back in Funtastic Fridays (our homeschool co-op) this year. Jackson and Ei are both taking a math class, a language class, a Spanish class, and karate. I was afraid that I had over-scheduled them (4 classes is a lot in one day), but they seem fine. We're always exhausted when we leave, but they enjoy all their classes.

Oh, and I get asked a lot about what I do with Aaron while we're doing school. Good question. He says the Pledge of Allegiance with us every morning (well, he puts his hand on his heart and mumbles), and he sits on the sofa with the boys while they're listening to a lesson. But while we're busy working on seatwork or doing hands-on projects, I often forget to keep a close eye on him, and this is what happens:

He self-teaches an art class. I give him an A for self-expression. Class dismissed!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Happy Birthday, Dear Jackson

Dear Jackson,

Today you turn 5 years old. I don't know how that's possible. I can still remember so vividly the weight of you in my arms for the first time, the intoxicating sweet smell that followed you around, and the softness of your fuzzy head as you nestled into my shoulder. You loved to be carried on my chest with your tiny legs tucked under your body like a little frog. You really weren't much of a crier, but when you did cry your face turned beet red and, buddy, you wailed. How is it possible that all of that was five years ago? When did you turn from a helpless infant into this charming boy?

Jackson, there's so much I will tell you someday. I want to tell you about the time I took you for your 9-month well-baby checkup and they told me that your liver was enlarged. The doctor guessed it was probably harmless but wanted to order an ultrasound to rule out cancer. CANCER. I heard that word echo in my head for the next 4 days as I wavered between begging God to take care of you and fury that He would bless me with this precious person only to take you away from me. I have never been so scared in all my life, and I've never cried that many tears. I can remember feeling your brother kicking around inside me (I was pregnant with Ei at the time) and feeling so torn because I wanted to give you a piece of my own liver but knew that I couldn't with Baby Ei inside me, and it was too early to deliver him. I don't think I slept at all for 3 nights. When they told me the ultrasound looked fine and that you were okay, I couldn't stop kissing you and holding you close to me. You squirmed away and wanted me to put you down, but I needed to hold on to you.

Jackson, someday I want you to know how I worry about you. I watch you suck in your cheeks when you're nervous, and I want to pull you close to me and make the world go away. I want to protect you from all that makes you scared and sad and embarrassed, but I also want to teach you how to believe in yourself and talk yourself through the anxiety. I want to push you hard to be the best you can be, but I also want you to know that the best you can be doesn't have to be perfect. I want you to know how proud I am of you, but I don't want you to think I'm proud of you only because of what you accomplish. You're a complex person, but I get you because you're my mini-me. I understand, but I don't have a clue what to do about it. And I worry all the time that I'm not getting it right.

Jackson, I don't even have the words to describe how much I love you. When I asked God for a baby, I hadn't thought much about what it would be like to have a child. I knew I wanted little doll clothes and strollers and tiny shoes (oh, the shoes!), but I didn't think ahead to what it would be like when my baby turned five. I had no idea that I would still sneak into your room at night to watch you sleep. I didn't know that I would still find the smell of your hair intoxicating. I couldn't have guessed that I would still struggle with my own need to hold you close and your need to wiggle free. You changed my life, little man. You love to remind me that I wasn't even a mom until you came along, and you have no idea how true that is. It's not just a title. Before you were even born, I fell in love with you, and my life started changing. I didn't know I could love like this. And, Jackson, it wasn't just me! You changed our whole family. I have never loved your Daddy as much as I did the day he tried to change your diaper for the first time. It took him a good 15 minutes just to get the old one off (meanwhile a very patient nurse was standing by waiting to take your vitals, and, bless her heart, she didn't laugh even once). Since you came along, I've fallen in love with Daddy's playful, patient, tender side. And our extended family? Never have we been so close. You wouldn't believe the welcome you received. My hospital room was packed to the brim with balloons, gifts, food, and so many people who just couldn't wait to squeeze you. For days we had a steady stream of visitors at our door. No one could get enough of you. Even after the newness of you wore off, we found new reasons to get together. Everyone just wanted to be near you. That hasn't changed. Five years later, we still have a steady stream of visitors at our door. Grandparents, aunts, uncles, friends--everyone wants to be a part of your life and watch you grow into this fantastic young man. You are a well-loved person, Jackson Reed...but no one loves you like your Mama loves you.

Happy birthday, precious Jackson. I hope all your birthday wishes come true. And I hope someday you have a child of your own so you can love someone this richly.

Yours forever,


Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Isle of Palms

Last week we took a much-needed vacation to Isle of Palms, South Carolina.  It was wonderful to get away from our routine for a week and relax with our family.  In addition to the Sharps, Oma, Nana, and Uncle Marc came along, so we had lots of people chasing after the boys (well, mostly Aaron--but it takes 5 adults to keep up with him!)


Aaron traveled with his loveys.  And, if you are my pediatrician, no, that is not a bottle in my 16 month old's mouth.  It's trick photography. 


The big boys were amazingly good in the car.  Our DVD player worked on the way down but not on the way back, so we had to rely on good old fashioned car fun on the way back (i.e. bribery and snacks).


Aaron crashed that night.  He doesn't much like leaving home, and the whole thing was a bit stressful for him.  Every time we go on a trip he develops an unexplained fever, which we can only attribute to stress.  It went away the minute we got home.


We went into Charleston one day.


At the Children's Museum

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This is how we kept up with all our children.


Aaron was mostly unimpressed.


After the museum we went on a horse-drawn carriage ride to see historic Charleston.  Aaron loved the horses.  He called them all Alley (our dog's name).


It's kind of hard to get a picture of the buggy while you're on it, so this is the buggy that returned just as we were leaving.  We looked like that, but without the matching green shirts.  My family just wouldn't cooperate with coordinating their outfits for the carriage rides.  Party poopers, if you ask me.


We saw all the beautiful historic homes and churches.  This house is my favorite.  I could live here.


I think Aaron liked it too.


If you've never been to the Charleston area, you have to go just to see all the crazy bridges.  We must have gone over a dozen cool ones.  This one was especially cool.  It was a little intimidating, actually, but the architecture was amazing.


This is what is looked like from under the arches.


These baby birds were on our back porch.  We really enjoyed watching the mama sparrow feed her babies.  It was really interesting because several different sparrows visited the babies and even fed them.  It takes a village, even if you're a bird, I guess.


They were really hungry.  This is also what my kids look like when dinner is late.


On the boat tour--one of the boys' favorite things


Showing off his dimple


Being silly


Aaron was mostly impressed with the captain's dog, who accompanied our trip.  He called her, you guessed it, Alley.  (Her name was really Bella, but she didn't seem to mind being called Alley.)


Oh, and he liked wearing Mama's big hat.


But mostly he was unimpressed with the boat tour too.


This is a dolphin.  Just take my word for it.  We saw tons of them on our little trip, but they weren't feeling very photogenic.  I have a bunch of pictures of the still water where there was ONCE a dolphin though.


The boat took us to Barrier Island, which is completely undeveloped.  It was REALLY beautiful.

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The boys got nets and went crabbing...


successfully.  One of my favorite memories was watching Jackson pounce on a crab.  He got wet from head to toe, but he came up with the crab all tangled in his net.


Showing off their catch--Ei wasn't so sure he liked holding it

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The boys and Oma were constantly on watch for wildlife in our backyard.  We had a really cool view of a "lagoon" (well, that's what the website called it, but we all agreed it was more of a swamp), and we saw all kinds of animals hanging out back there.


TONS of birds--various herons and cranes and pelicans


We saw lots of white-tailed deer.   We even saw a baby hanging out in another condo's front yard with his mama.  Of course, I didn't have my camera with me though.  They are not afraid of people at all, and they came right up to the front porches of people's houses in our little subdivision.


We saw racoon fishing.  There were 4, but we only caught 3 in this picture.


And this guy.  Yup, that's an alligator.  When we arrived we saw a sign next to the pool that said, "Do not feed or approach the alligators."  We thought it was funny...until we saw one.  He hung out all week.  Aaron called him Alley.


This is where we spent quite a bit of our time.  The boys got really comfortable putting their faces in the water and swimming with their legs behind them.  It was fun to watch.


Watching Animal Planet is much cooler inside a fort.


The view from inside


Poor Aaron.  We bought this swimsuit with a built-in float for Jackson, but it was too small.  So, we tried it on Aaron.  He floated, all right, but he looked ridiculous.  We didn't make him wear it again. 


In the evenings we put puzzles together.  We got through 3 and a half puzzles.


And, of course, we played on the beach. 


Aaron was unimpressed.  He fell asleep in his beach chair.  It was too hot to cover him up with a towel, but I didn't want him to burn.  So, I strategically covered him in hats.  You can't tell from this picture, but the hats (and one bucket, which covered his foot)are completely blocking all of the sun's rays.

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Ooh, look who woke up.


The boys buried Daddy in the sand.  This might look familiar.  We did the same thing last year


Aaron was still unimpressed.  Oh, but isn't this a cool photography trick?  Marc did it.  I cannot take credit for it.


Flying kites


Aaron was so happy to be home.  He rolled all over the floor and then finally fell asleep.  Poor guy. 


We had a wonderful time, but we are all glad to be home.  Next year, 4 boys.  Who's coming with us?